Five Massacres That Every Indian Communist Must Be Reminded Of

Anirban Ganguly

A recollection of the totalitarian and violent regime of Communists in Bengal.

Communist paradises of proletarians have essentially been backwaters of violence and victimization with stagnating waters of cultural, educational and ethical degeneration. While the story of Communist violence in the state of Kerala is now being told – with the launch of an exhibition curated by the Forum for Justice and Development, in Delhi, the sordid saga of Communist atrocities in West Bengal is yet to be narrated in its entirety.

It is imperative that that saga be narrated not only to highlight the shackles that Communism had bound over the spirit of Bengal but also to reveal how the institutionalization of violence in Bengal politics was a singular contribution of the Communists and of how, now that tradition and political habit continues with the TMC. Democratic opposition was never tolerated by the Communists in Bengal and violence became the prime instrument resorted to by the comrades to dissolve in the Bengali political space.

In West Bengal, in three decades that it was in power, the Communists have inflicted violence on the common people, especially those who have politically opposed them. In fact, the CPI-M and other Communist parties continue to stick to the cult of violence and whenever an occasion arise resorts to it. Their character is “anything between a fascist party and a Mafioso.”

Ever since it came to power in West Bengal in 1977, the CPI-M, for example, used murder as a political instrument in an organised manner. Ironically, on the one hand it nurtured and created a web of committed intellectuals who were often party card holders and were prolific in their literary and intellectual output, on the other hand it perpetrated violence as to control and regulate, especially the lower strata of society, the hapless farmer, the fisherman, the small trader, the refugee, who had to, perforce, become a member of the party and toe its line.

A brief list will reveal that the rule of Communists in West Bengal was one of the bloodiest episodes in democratic India’s history. The urban intellectuals, of course, kept silent throughout until it became politically incorrect to do so…but by then the cult of violence had been ingrained and cemented in the body politic of West Bengal.

Five violent episodes shall always remain the hallmark of Communist rule and define its violent politics in West Bengal. These episodes, among the many undocumented thousands, express the essentially anti-democratic spirit of Communism in India

1. Sainbari Killings (March 1970)

Much before they came to power heading the Left Front Government in 1977, the CPI-M leaders started experimenting with murder as a political instrument. Way back in 1970 CPI-M cadres murdered two important Congress leaders belonging to the Sain family of Burdwan. The level of bestiality that they stooped down to was evident by the fact that they made the mother of the two Sain brothers eat rice drenched with the blood of her dead sons. The shock made the mother lose her mental balance and state from which she never recovered till her death a decade later. Those communist cadres who perpetrated this violence went on to become ministers and MPs under the Left-Front government and were never brought to book.

The case which came to be known as the “Sainbari murders” has come to symbolise political violence in West Bengal. It is ironical to see the Congress depend for cerebral and political oxygen on the CPI-M today.

2. Marichjhapi Massacre (January 1979)

On Saraswati Puja Day, the Jyoti Basu-led Left front Government fired, starved, shot and killed Bengali Hindu refugees from Bangladesh, who had trooped into the state and had taken shelter in the Sunderban area. These refugees, largely Dalits who had escaped persecution in Bangladesh and sought shelter in India, were about 60,000 in number and “were taken in by the Left Front’s poll promises and had come over from the rehabilitation centre provided by the Centre in Dandakaranya (Odisha)” to Marichjhanpi in Suderban. Tear gas, blockade, firing, burning of camps were the methods used by CPI-M cadres and state police under Left front to disperse the refugees.

Many, while trying to escape, fell in the sea to be eaten by crocodiles; many bodies were dumped in the sea as well. Children – 8 years old, 12 years old, women and their babies, men and women in their seventies and eighties were killed in the firing. Till date, the exact number of deaths has not been known.” How many refugees died in police firing and how died when their boats sank while tried to escape will never be known. The refugees were hunted down just because a CPI-M government, led by proletarian leaders decided that they must be ousted. The CPI-M does talk of human rights and of the need for protecting it, but that talk is only reserved in favour of terrorists like Yakub Memon. Nor have those worthies now protesting at the FTII or their predecessors have ever made a documentary on the Marichjhapi pogrom.

3. Ananda Margi Monks Burnt Alive (April 1982)

Ananda Margis from all over the country were headed to an “educational conference” at the Tiljala centre in the southern suburbs of Kolkata when CPI-M cadres led by city leaders struck and burnt them alive. The party was wary that the Anand Margis would emerge as formidable force arresting their growth in the state. The procession wound its way was through what is now known as Bijon Setu in the Ballygunge area of south Kolkata.

Taxis carrying monks and sanyasins were intercepted at three separate locations, by CPI-M cadres the monks, two of whom were women, were doused in petrol and kerosene, and set on fire. At least 17 Margis were charred to death; several others were severely injured. The lynching was carefully planned and executed by Marxist cadres over a land dispute with the Marg. No CPIM leader has been brought to book till date.

4. Nanoor Massacre (July 2000)

CPI-M cadres and local leaders killed 11 landless Muslim labourers just because they were supporters of the opposition party and were resisting encroachment and land grabbing on July 27, 2000. The prime witness was also attacked and injured by CPI-M goons. The Statesman in an editorial wrote, “The sole purpose in attacking the prime witness in the gruesome Nanoor massacre of July 2000 in which 11 supporters were slaughtered by armed CPI-M cadres was to shield those responsible and abort their trial, by hook or by crook. The irony is that although five years have elapsed since the occurrence of the horrendous killings by the Marxists, the trial of their 79 accused comrades had not begun”.

The CPIM’s bike-riding “Harmad Bahini”, spread terror in the region, as it did over the years in areas where the Communist might was politically challenged. The pattern was to intimidate the women, burn huts, beat up and at times hack at the men and set fire to the collected grains before leaving. Often the villagers were compelled to leave the village and live in camps in neighbouring villages or had to leave the state altogether.

5. Nandigram Massacre (March 14, 2007)

The CPI-M-led government of the “poor and the peasants” tried to forcibly acquire 10,000 acres of agricultural land for a foreign company in Nandigram, in Purba Medinipur district. The farmers having formed a Bhumi Raksha Committee resisted the snatching of their lands. They were first attacked by CPI-M’s Harmad Bahini, who threatened and set fire to the villagers’ huts and prepared the ground that led to firing which saw over 14 farmers die and over 70 getting injured. The real figures will never be known, people saw piles of farmers’ bodies dumped. The government of the proletariat, which derived its strength from farmers and from landless labourers and from the poor, did not think twice while mowing them down.

While inaugurating the exhibition on Communist violence in Kerala, BJP president Amit Shah was right when he observed how “wherever BJP activists talk on ideology and development; the CPI-M workers commit murderous attacks on them​” and that this was “not just happening in Kerala, but was “happening everywhere where their governments have been in power or in those areas where they are effective.”

In fact, this murderous method has been practised by the CPI-M and Communist parties against anyone who has spoken for or worked to strengthen India or the nationalist discourse. On every occasion, Indian Communists come out loudest, serving homilies on the correct approach to governance, correct conduct in public life and the need for an effective policy framework to tackle India’s myriad problems.

In reality, such a shallow talk is a smokescreen to hide their own active complicity in turning parts of our democratic polity into wastelands of conflict, violence and death. While it is hoped that scholars would someday take up the study of the saga of Communist violence in the country, aspirational India is increasingly rejecting such a regressive ideology and political method – that in itself is a sign of hope.




A ‘counter-radicalisation’ strategy is not adequate to combat the threat of global jihad against India. It is vital for India to ensure that the IS is unable to spread its tentacles and influence in the Afghan-Pakistan region
It has been widely reported in the American media that the Islamic State has a grand design of uniting the numerous Afghan and Pakistan terrorist groups to forge a new ‘army of terror’ based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and to trigger a war in India to provoke the US. The revelation is based on a 32-page document in Urdu that talks about the future battle plans of the IS in pursuance of its ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic Caliphate, a common goal of all globaljihadi terror outfits. It urges the Ummah, the entire global Muslim community, to recognise the Islamic State’s head Baghdadi as the sole ruler of the world’s Muslims under a religious empire ‘caliphate’.
It also reveals its focus on armed uprisings in the Arab world. The document reveals that preparations for an attack in India are in full swing and terms it as a “final battle” leading to the victory of good over evil, something similar to the Ghazwa-e-Hind announced earlier by the Al Qaeda and supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. Al Qaeda also released a video titled ‘War must continue, a message to the Muslims of Kashmir’, late last year.

The Government of India has acknowledged the growing threat of radicalisation of the Muslim youth and they, being motivated by the IS ideology. A Home Ministry official said, “Attraction towards radical ideology of any religion is a matter of concern.” The Government maintains that the appeal of the IS in India is confined to a few radicalised youth from the minority community and there is no direct threat from the organisation. Also, the Government has decided to put in place a strategy of ‘counter radicalisation’ for de-radicalisation of the youths, attracted by the idea of jihad, to combat the IS threat in India. National Conference president Farooq Abdullah has termed the waving of IS flags in Kashmir as “a mere expression of anger and frustration by the youth who want to wake up the nation”. Is the IS threat to India so trivial or is it time to wake up and smell the coffee?
Frederick W Kagan, a renowned American expert, has described the IS threat as “the greatest evil of our time that has taken its root in Iraq and Syria”. He adds, “The IS is not a terrorist organisation. It is an army of conquest that is destroying all traces of civilisation in the lands it holds. It slaughters innocent civilians. It loots ancient sites for profit and demolishes what it cannot steal. It has declared its intent to conduct genocide against all Shia Muslims and follows through whenever it can. It has re-established slavery and distributes captives as property among its troops and allies. It encourages its soldiers to rape, including through forced ‘marriage’, women who fall into its hands. It boasts of the most brutal methods of murdering its hostages.” Mr Kagan has aptly summed up the medieval outlook and thought process of the dreaded outfit.

According to the IS, anybody who does not subscribe to its interpretation of Islam is not a Muslim and needs to be killed. The IS is the richest terrorist organisation in the world. It occupies swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria (equal to the size of Jordan) and runs its own Government. It possesses oil wealth, generates revenue and imposes taxes on non-Muslims. It’s a state of non-state actors. It is best poised for the re-establishment of a caliphate. It has no dearth of recruits, both domestic as well as global. Its core cadre of fighters comprises erstwhile Sunni tribal groups, Baathists officers and soldiers who are well-trained. It has sophisticated war-fighting machinery. The IS has mastered the use of social media and uses it effectively to not only spread its ideology but for brainwashing and radicalising the young minds to motivate them for jihad.
It also uses social media for international scouting of fighters. The IS also exports terror to the civilised world through the return of thousands of indoctrinated, trained and battle-hardened fighters to their respective home lands.

India has been on the radar- screen of globaljihadist, Sunni-Islamist terror outfits since a long time. Though the IS rose to prominence only a just more than a year back, it has been focusing on India since the very beginning. Khalifah Ibrahim alias Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in his message at the eve of holy month of Ramzan last year released a list of ‘enemies of Islam’ nations and India figured in the list. In his message, he commanded the Muslims to revolt against the Government and wage a holyjihad. Parts of North-West India were included in the map of the proposed caliph.
A number of Indians were motivated to join the IS ranks and were reported to be fighting alongside the IS in Syria. The IS further renewed its effort in India by translating online training literature in three Indian languages. It considers India as a fertile ground for recruitment. Recently, a group of Indians was detained before it could fly out to join the IS. Some of the Indian fighters are also reported to have died in Syria. Those who are alive, can be used to join the proposed ‘army of terror’ to fight in India.

The death of Mullah Omar has minimised the challenge posed to the IS by the Afghan Taliban. Many factions ofjihadists in the Afghan-Pakistan region have already announced their loyalty to the IS. Al Qaeda is also facing a severe financial as well as manpower crisis. The launch of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent with much fanfare has turned out to be a damp squib. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS supremo, has no rival to his self-proclaimed title of Khalifah (Caliph) after the death of Mullah Omar. The stage is set for the IS to move into Afghanistan and to form the ‘army of terror’ to launch the ‘final battle’ in India.
A ‘counter-radicalisation’ strategy may to some extent be capable of preventing radicalisation and alienation of the minority community youth, but is it adequate to combat the threat of globaljihad against India? The physical threat to India from the IS may manifest only after it is able to firm up in the Afghan-Pakistan region. It is critical for India to ensure that the IS is unable to spread its tentacles and influence in this region. With the ground situation in its favour, Baghdadi will soon try to wrest the initiative in Afghanistan. It will attempt to coerce or lure Pakistan’s ISI to join the bandwagon.
To this, include the ISI’s plan to extend the arc of terror and revive Sikh militancy. Recent terrorist acts at Dinanagar, Udhampur and Basantgarh, and renewed violence in the Kashmir valley, are enough indicators of its intent. If the IS and the ISI join hands, globaljihad, led by the IS and fully supported logistically by the ISI, will be at our doorstep. India has to prepare itself to meet this threat. It requires a matching counter-strategy formulated by professionals who have ground experience and not by arm-chair bound bureaucrats. India needs a separate Ministry of Homeland/Internal Security by clipping the Ministry of Home Affairs.
(The writer is a retired Army officer and security and strategic affairs analyst)

Independence Day, Three Questions and Answers

Balbir Punj

Even on the eve of the 68th Independence Day, three controversies are waiting to be resolved. First of these, who got us freedom ? Second, was partition inevitable and the third, how have we fared since independence? Gandhiji, his fasts and mass movements indeed carried the message of freedom to the common man. However, much before Gandhiji’s entry on the national political scene in 1914-15, revolutionary groups were active in the country and they continued to be a thorn in the side of beleaguered empire till it packed off. The dare devil operations of the revolutionaries and their sacrifices surely inspired common men and women. And Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s raising of INA (out of Indian POWs of the second world war) and successfully leading them against the British shook the confidence of the colonial rulers.

Incidents such as the Navy revolt in Mumbai in 1946 further added to their sense of insecurity and discomfort. The British rightly concluded that they could no longer control India with the help of ‘loyal’ Indians. Moreover, after the second world war, global map was being redrawn, power equations were changing, communism was fast emerging as a new creed promising freedom and equality and colonialism was going out of fashion. The British public opinion too was no longer in favour of continuing with colonies. Along with freedom, came bloody partition of the country in which over two million innocents were killed and about ten million were rendered refugees. Was the tragedy of partition a result of an ego clash between an ambitious and arrogant Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah who was frustrated with Congress? Or was it a product of British conspiracy and machinations?

In the ‘secular’ narrative, answer to both the questions is ‘yes’. There is little doubt that the British did play dirty. After crushing the uprising of 1857, they followed a policy of ‘divide and rule’ and exploited the fault lines within the Indian society. Some of the fault lines they identified and arduously worked on were: The sensitive nature of Hindu-Muslim relations, Hindu-Sikh equations, Caste Hindus versus the rest, Aryans versus Dravidians, north versus south and princes versus their subjects.

The willy British worked, simultaneously, on all the six, achieving varying degrees of success. Probably the only man who saw through their sordid game was the Mahatma and he valiantly fought against their roguish designs. Of all the fault lines, the easiest for the British to work on was the 700-year-odd Hindu-Muslim ties, mostly soaked in blood.

The invaders, who subsequently made India their home, converted the locals to their faith under the threat of sword, destroyed and desecrated their places of worship, and trampled upon their icons. The victims, Hindus, retaliated and, over a period of time, regained control of most parts of India before the British take-over. In fact, Delhi was annexed by the British after the East India Company forces led by General Gerard Lake defeated the Marathas in 1803 in a battle, fought at the outskirts of the city in an area, now known as Noida. Till then, the Moghul emperor was a pensioner of the Marathas. After the Marathas lost, he happily accepted a dole from the British and this arrangement continued till 1857. After successfully putting down 1857 uprising, the British played on the injured pride of the defeated Muslims, their insecurities and invoked Islamic theology. To continue with their stratagem, they formulated a paradigm, best articulated by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (founder of Aligarh Muslim University) in a speech delivered at Meerut on March 16,1888. Excerpts: “Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations – the Mohammedans and the Hindus — could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable.”

“This thing — rest on God’s will. But until one nation has conquered the other and made it obedient, peace cannot reign in the land.” And the one where he exhorted to the community, “We ought to unite with that nation with whom we can unite. No Mohammedan can say that the English are not ‘people of the Book’. No Mohammedan can deny this: that God has said that no people of other religions can be friends of the Mohammedans, except the Christians. He who has read the Koran and believes it knows that our nation cannot expect friendship and affection from any other people. Now God has made them rulers over us. Therefore, we should cultivate a friendship with them, and should adopt the method by which their rule may remain permanent and firm in India, and may not pass into the hands of the Bengalis.”

Sir Syed’s brain-child, AMU created a record of sorts. Normally, countries establish universities. In case of AMU, the university created a new nation – Pakistan. Sir Syed’s doctrine became the signature tune of Muslim politics in years to come and continues to motivate a large section of Muslims in the sub-continent till date. Most of the Indo-Pak problems and Hindu-Muslim chasm in the sub-continent can be traced to the mindset generated by Sir Sayed’s credo. In order to wean away the Muslim psyche from this poisonous weed, Gandhiji bent backwards, supported khilaft in 1920 but failed miserably.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a non-practising Muslim and a ‘secularist’ and a leader without followers till 1930s, emerged as the sole voice of Indian Muslims; but only after he started speaking for partition and against the Hindus. The seeds of partition were ingrained in the Muslim psyche of those times. The British exploited this mindset for their own ends. The communists, provided all the intellectual arguments which Muslims needed to justify their demand for a separate theocratic state. If Jinnah had dropped his demand for Pakistan for some reason, the Muslims surely would have disowned him and found some other Jinnah to do their bidding. Was it possible to prevent vivisection of India? Yes, it was, provided the then national leadership had opted for a civil war (like Abraham Lincoln did on the issue of slavery) and not for a truncated India. May be in such a scenario, the net loss of lives and property could have been much less than what the sub-continent suffered during the partition riots.

We have done well for ourselves since independence. But we could have done even better. We are the only stable and a secular democracy in the entire region. Ask any Indian: will he like to migrate to any of the countries in the neighbourhood? Likely answer: no. We have a lot to celebrate and improve upon as well.

The Author is a Delhi based commentator on Political and Social issues.